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4 YOUR SAY… 6 WHAT’S NEW
Refugees: the big reach-out Rachel Halliburton reports on the Jewish response to the biggest refugee crisis to hit Europe since World War II.
To boycott – or not? The cultural boycott against Israel has frequently hit the headlines over the past year. Can it ever be justified? Sound of silence Index on Censorship editor Rachael Jolley discusses the implications of boycotting Jewish and Israeli artists.
30 WHAT’S HAPPENING
Listings Our exclusive three-month guide to art, books, film, music, theatre and other cultural events in the UK and beyond.
Tr y t h i s ! Find out why David Memel and his Bristol book club are not bowled over by Saul Bellow.
A great autumn of art Our critics recommend the season’s best art shows from Frank Auerbach’s London skylines to Naomi Alexander’s messy Gateshead kitchens.
Power of belief The striking work of Israeli photographer Natan Dvir can shock – and provoke.
THE TOWN WHERE TIME STOOD STILL
In 2005, photographer Yuri Dojc and filmmaker Katya Krausova, both children of Holocaust survivors, travelled to their parents’ native country, Slovakia, to document what was left of a once vibrant Jewish community. The result was Last Folio, an exhibition of stunning photos that were displayed around the world – and have now been made into a book. Katya Krausova reveals the extraordinary story behind the images
BARDEJOV, SLOVAKIA MARCH, 2006 We reach Bardejov, once a popular spa town on the Polish-Ukrainian border. We’ve come to film the grand synagogue complex, now a hardware store and warehouse. Its beautiful vaulted arches are cracked, the frescos are deteriorating, birds have built their nests under the roof. Outside is a faded plaque which tells us that 3,700 Bardejov Jews were taken to the camps directly from the synagogue in 1942.
In a typical prefab council block we visit the last Jewish couple still living in the town. Mrs Šimonovi , who has a strikingly beautiful face, tells us, first reluctantly, then in great detail, about her father, who was the kosher butcher here before the war. She ends by saying that she never wanted to talk to anyone about her wartime experiences, but now she feels, at the end of her life, that it all needs saying.
We’re about to leave when a neighbour, Mr Bogol, invites us to his flat. He has to talk to us, but “not here in the lobby”.
This is a moment that happens to all film crews everywhere. It has been a long day, they have had enough. They just want to go back to their hotel and have a beer. But we are persuaded to get back into the rickety elevator, go to the 7th floor, remove our shoes again, and crowd into the small sitting room, while the wife offers tea, wafers and slivovitz – kosher, she says.
Mr Bogol tells us that he and his wife have lived in the same block with the Šimonovi s for more than 40 years and that following the death of Mr Šimonovi ’s brother, he became the keeper of the keys of a building in the town. He is adamant that we see it before we leave in the morning. I decline as politely as I can.
We have a tight schedule, there is another old survivor waiting for us 300 kilometres away, and a lot of snow on the roads. At five to eight in the morning I see Mr Bogol pacing outside our hotel. “Just 10 minutes,” he pleads, “though you should see the cemetery as well. I have been looking after it and numbered more than 5,000 graves.” “Next time,” I say, feeling guilty and graceless. We follow his car and park somewhere behind the jewel- like main square. He opens the doors of a building in a row of houses.
12 JEWISHRENAISSANCE.ORG.UK OCTOBER 2015
Clockwise from top: school room, Bardejov, 2008; synagogue, Košice, 2006; tefillin scroll, Bardejov, 2006; bookshelf, Bardejov, 2006; books belonging to Yuri’s grandfather, Jakab Deutsch, Michalovce, 2008; Cerhov, 2006; synagogue, Pecovská Nová Ves, 2007
Two tall windows and a sign in Hebrew above them, but otherwise there is nothing to attract attention. We walk in at five past eight in the morning and the next time I look at my watch it is well after two in the afternoon.
Time stopped still in this building, which housed a Jewish school a long time ago, almost certainly in 1942, the day when Bardejov’s Jews vanished forever. Mr Bogol proudly shows us how he and his wife have been painstakingly cleaning each bench, each light, each seat, finding – and preserving – every object. Even the spittoons are in what must have been their original places by the old chimney in the corner, the books are on the shelves, the two long benches with writing desks in front of them are empty, there are Hebrew inscriptions on the walls. Mr Bogol is talking to me but I can hardly hear him. The place is haunted by children’s faces.
Yuri and the cameraman are unable to move away from the bookshelves. The disintegrating tomes, the beautiful, decaying spines, all the crumbling pages are mesmerising.
They speak volumes about those who never came back to read the texts, to explain, to teach, to learn from them. On his return to Canada, Yuri phones me: “I have to go back.”
BARDEJOV, SLOVAKIA SEPTEMBER, 2008 Three years and numerous visits to the Bardejov schoolroom later, we are told of another place that houses books. We go. Yuri is taking pictures of tefillin straps while there is daylight, as there is no electricity in the house.
I am struck by all the nameplates and stamps of the owners of the books, and I recreate the small town in my mind’s eye: the doctor, the butcher, the bookseller, even the man who only sells “exotic sweets”. I suddenly come across a book stamped with the name Jakab Deutsch. I walk into the next room, reflecting on the fact that even after so many years into the project, we have never really talked much about the fate of our own families.
Deutsch is a very common name in central Europe. “What was the name of your grandfather?” I ask Yuri. “Jakab,” he says. “What did he do?” “He was a tailor, women’s fashion… in Michalovce.” There it is in Hungarian – Yuri’s grandfather’s book. I hand him the book. We stand in stunned silence. We have finished our project, completed our journey. n
Last Folio, A Photographic Memory, by Yuri Dojc & Katya Krausova, Prestel, £35. Katya Krausova is co-founder of the film company Portobello Pictures.
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Masters of gloom Comedian Arthur Smith reveals his affinity with arch miserablist Leonard Cohen.
The town where time stood still When Katya Krausova accompanied Yuri Dojc on a photographic assignment in Slovakia, she had no idea of the astonishing stories they would uncover.
14 Gothic secrets Agi Erdos encounters devils, owls and fiery furnaces as she discovers a hidden history beneath Lincoln Cathedral’s vaulted ceiling.
ON THE COVER Ukraine: past, present, future JR editor Rebecca Taylor met photographer Kris Kulakovska on a trip to Ukraine in May. Kris’ portraits of Ukrainians (some of those in her photos met with Rebecca, above) reveal the deep Jewish connection to this troubled nation. We explore that bond in our special Ukraine section.
On the move again JR speaks to refugees fleeing the fighting in the east.
Odessa tales Jewish gangsters, pimps and thieves populated this legendary southern city and the stories of its greatest writer, Isaac Babel.
Dynamite ham Woody Allen’s world-view is unmistakably Jewish, says Jason Solomons.
Holy zombies! It’s film festival time again! JR reviewers pick their highlights.
A bug’s life Steven Berkoff tells Judi Herman about the Jewish heart at the centre of Kafka’s famous story.
Future sounds Whatever happened to the winners of the Millennium Music Awards?
A bridge too far Could Nazi Germany and Israel have been allies? A new novel asks the unthinkable question. Black earth David Herman reviews Timothy Snyder’s illuminating analysis of wartorn east Europe.
Poetic gaze Writer Guillaume Apollinaire felt a surprising kinship with Europe’s Jews, says Lucy Raitz.
Food of love How did a community blog become a cookery best-seller?
58 LAST WORDS
Kafka’s metamorphosis The Yiddish-theatre-moment.
C O N T E N T S
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